Saturday morning began with a storm, but the unfavorable weather had little effect on attendance at Methodist South's annual Whitehaven Healthy Community Day on April 14. The health fair took place inside a large tent set up in the hospital's parking lot on Wesley Drive near Elvis Presley Boulevard.
Despite the rain, several hundred people visited the health fair between 9 A.M. and noon.
"That tells us that people want to learn more about health and wellness,” said Sarah Farley, Methodist South's communication specialist. "Many of our attendees are frequent guests at our other events and they are very familiar with our services, classes, events, support groups and physicians."
The event is in its 15th year and was originally established with the goal of providing the Whitehaven community with preventative health measures, educational information and fitness activities. Two of those activities, a 5k timed run and a two-mile health walk, were canceled due to the rain.
However, this did not impede the success of the preventative health measures available to those attending the community resource fair.
Residents of Whitehaven gather in a tent in Methodist South's parking lot for the Whitehaven Healthy Community Day on April 8, 2018. (Brandon Dahlberg)
"More and more people are attending these health fairs. We try to make it as easy as possible for people to join us. With free screenings, free parking and entertainment throughout the day, it’s a great way for families and friends to spend time together. We’ve also increased and evolved our vendor participation so that we continue to connect people with resources important to them,” Farley said.
Vendor booths ran the length of a tent as people moved from table to table collecting information about topics ranging from staying healthy during pregnancy to degree programs and career opportunities in the medical field.
Many of the vendors represented health serves offered in the Whitehaven neighborhood. The majority of the attendees were gathered at the end of tent where they received screenings, talked to Methodist staff members, and waited together while the results of their tests were processed. Screenings were available for conditions such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose and tests for vision, hearing and body mass index.
“We have medical professionals on-site to answer questions and provide additional information on the various programs and services we offer, like diabetes care, wound healing, childbirth classes, stroke support groups and everything in between,” Farley said.
Anne Rogers, a 16-year veteran of Methodist South's same-day surgery and recovery floor, was one of about a dozen nurses working the blood pressure and blood glucose screening tables.
Anne Rogers has been a nurse with Methodist South for 16 years. (Brandon Dahlberg)
"We're here for the community," Rogers said, emphasizing her role as an advisor and a promoter of healthy lifestyles to the Whitehaven residents. In the first three hours of the health fair, Methodist employees had screened 84 patients, all of whom were from Whitehaven.
While many of those who received screenings were aware of their health status, Rogers estimated that about forty percent of those patients had an undiagnosed condition such as hypertension or diabetes.
Regarding the effectiveness of health screenings at events like the Healthy Community Day, Farley added, "There have definitely been instances where attendees received extremely high blood pressure numbers during screenings, which led them either to our Emergency Department or to being admitted to the hospital."
Betty Jones, a diabetes patient at Methodist South, was one of the Whitehaven residents getting her blood glucose levels checked. She attended the health fair with her son, and they both agreed that the health fair had been a successful event.
"My favorite thing was when they took my blood sugar and let me know about the food I was eating. It helps me stay on balance." Jones was diagnosed with diabetes in 2016 and receives regular treatment at Methodist South's outpatient clinic.
Jones was also pleased at the variety of educational material available at the health fair. "I learned a lot today."